Carroll commissioners keep funding for anti-opioid program at $300,000 for next fiscal year

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday afternoon to maintain the amount of money dedicated to the Not in Carroll anti-opioid initiative for fiscal year 2020 at the $300,000 level the board had budgeted for FY19.

After having initially lowered that commitment to $250,000, the board ultimately voted 4-1 to restore the $300,000 level for the next five years. Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, voted against.


Not In Carroll was originally a $2.2 million, three-year commitment from the board made in 2015 to set aside funds to help combat the opioid drug epidemic in Carroll.

“That Not in Carroll money, that $300,000, is for miscellaneous things that occur through the year we can do with that money,” Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said in an interview.

In late 2018, the board spent the last $108,000 of the Not In Carroll fund for FY19 on printing a behavioral health guide, launching the Sources of Strength behavioral health program, a vehicle for the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau, and a street smarts program at the Boys and Girls Club of Westminster. The Sources of Strength program was designed to keep at-risk Carroll County Public Schools students off drugs.

And as Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer presented to the board Thursday morning, the board had also authorized $135,000 in FY19 to fund a call center for Carroll County’s new mobile crisis team.

“It is operating seven days a week from 9 a.m. until midnight, helping law enforcement and emergency services respond to folks who are in crisis, whether it is substance use or behavioral health,” Singer told the commissioners Thursday. “Instead of people going to the hospital and being admitted there, we are linking them to services and this team is actually responding in the field.”

The call center has allowed the crisis team to be more efficient and handle a higher volume — Singer said that “between July 1 last year and Feb. 1 of this year, they handled 1,100 calls. These are calls that the response team otherwise had to handle.” Singer said he hoped the commissioners would fund another $135,000 for the call center in FY20, which begins July 1.

Singer also presented on options for a proposed new after-school program in Carroll County middle schools, designed to fill the void for at-risk youth that the Boys and Girls Club fills in Westminster but not in other areas of Carroll County.

“Steve Guthrie, two or three years ago when he was superintendent,” Singer told the board Thursday, “said the biggest problem we have is we have these middle-schoolers after school who are struggling with things in their lives.”

Singer laid out several options for such after-school programs, ranging in scope from a twice-weekly program at two schools for $96,014 to a thrice-weekly program for $131,746. Either program would launch at Northwest and North Carroll middle schools in the first year — the schools that a working group suggested could most benefit from the program, Singer said — while additional schools could be added in later years if more funding was available for expansion.

Bouchat, at the morning session, was supportive of funding both the call center and the twice-weekly after-school program using Not in Carroll funds.

“I think all of us are learning that this opioid epidemic is taking a lot of avenues to address,” he said. “These investments can lead to us having less adult addicts in the future.”

Bouchat said in a later interview that he voted against increasing overall Not in Carroll funding to $300,000 because of the county’s tight budget for FY20 and because Singer had told the board it could be possible to launch the after-school programs with the $250,000 level of commitment.

“For me, as long as the department head feels comfortable with something, I’m OK with it,” Bouchat said in an interview. “[Singer] was stating that with the $250,000, he would be able to cover his expenses and since we are on a tight budget, if we could have trimmed that by 40 percent, that would have been good.”


Bouchat said that he still supported the program proposed by Singer despite voting against increasing Not in Carroll funding.

Wantz noted in an interview that the board has yet to vote on the allocation of Not in Carroll funds to individual programs, such as the call center, and that all budget allocations are still in flux as the board finishes the budget process.

“All the decisions we’ve made so far are placeholders until we adopt the entire budget,” he said. “The smaller decisions are there to keep things in place.”

When might the FY20 budget be complete, then?

“Our hope is to be finished up on Tuesday at some point,” Wantz said.